Bobby Seale (Part 1)

Bobby Seale (Part 1) (1979)
Duration: 00:28:20

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Themes: Education and Families | Leadership | Urban Challenges |

Guests: Bobby Seale
Host : Ron Scott
Producer : Ron Scott


Summary: Bobby Seale was a key figure in the development of African American consciousness and radical political activism in the 1960s. Seale was one of the founders of, and an important spokesman for, the Black Panther Party. In this program from 1979, Seale talks with host Ron Scott about his role with the Black Panthers, his recently published autobiography and his new sense of direction for the 1980s.

The program begins with short video clip from the film "The Black Panther" in which Seale is heard reciting the party's ten-point program for political, economic and social justice for African Americans.

Scott's interview opens with Seale's departure from the Black Panthers in 1974 and leads Seale to a very open critique of the 1960s. Seale discloses that he left the party because by the mid 1970s, membership had fallen from a peak of 10,000 in 1969 to barely 300 nationwide. But, he says, he also felt a need for new direction. And he argues that the 'movement activism' of the 1960s had lost focus.

"It did not leave us with a practical, ideological goal objective," Seale maintains. "It should have left us with that. That's why we have a lot of young black people today who are not aware of what went down in the 60s. . . . They don't understand the complete turnaround the black people made" in the mid 60s.

Seale traces his own development of political consciousness, from a difficult childhood, through a pivotal collision with racism in the military, through attempts at comedy and musical performing to an encounter with a street speaker while he was in college. The latter prompted him to switch his major from engineering to the social sciences. "I stumbled into the struggle," he says.

Scott questions Seale about his autobiography, A Lonely Rage. Seale describes how the great literary figure James Baldwin, who wrote an introduction to the book, helped him settle on the title. He says he planned a second book to look more closely at the politics of social struggle.

Seale details his vision of the future, both for himself and for political activism. He says that while many people might be hoping for a revival of the 1960s, he thinks new direction and new focus are necessary.

"The 60s was about spontaneous mass consciousness raising," he says. "The 80s has to be about community-based programmatic, political-oriented organizing down in the community."

He describes his own efforts to build a "militant lobby organizing network." Seale argues that African Americans need to look at education as something more than job preparation. He says that blacks need to look at education as something that enables them to manipulate economic and political frameworks in the broader society. That way, even if jobs aren't available for black college graduates, "the education you got would allow you to organize and wage revolution in this country to make sure you change and take control over more political institutions."

The program is valuable, not merely for the observations it offers on the activism and militant politics of the 1960s, but also for the insight it provides into the continuing philosophical development of one of that era's most prominent and controversial political figures.